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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Bude, Cornwall, Just About

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas MAY. 21, 2021

It was all change on Monday 17th when it became safe overnight to stay in a hotel and eat in a restaurant. The day before it was just too dangerous so you would have had to eat outside in the wind and rain and pitch a tent.

Anyway, that's how we came to be going to Bude which is in Cornwall but only just. So for two hours we drove across Devon thinking that Bude might in fact be in Devon, because we were fast running out of road, and then after we caught a glimpse of the northern coast of the South West peninsula and just before we landed in Bude a sign suddenly appeared which said "You have just sneaked into Cornwall", or "Welcome to Cornwall", possibly.

This is all down to the fact that when they decided on the border the guy with the pen obviously had a nervous disorder. So if you look at the border it follows a bit of this river north, then it suddenly veers off along another river and does a bit of a loop to the east and then it's back and going north until it suddenly veers off west to do another little loop and all the time it is making a little thin uppity bit like the bone in a lamb chop, with the rest of Cornwall the meaty middle and Bude the bone, sticking out, that you pick up when you want to chew off the meat.

But none of that is to the detriment of Bude, it's just a travelling geographer's observation. They still have Clotted Cream, Pasties, and Dairy Ice Cream just like the rest of Cornwall. They still have a great coastline with some interesting seaside rock. Not the sort of seaside rock that you eat, which has a peppermint pink exterior and the word Bude written all the way through it but the sort that was created 300 million years ago and just happens to have been twisted and pulled into shapes just like the peppermint variety.

Rock is a type of hard stick-shaped boiled sugar confectionery most usually flavoured with peppermint or spearmint. It is commonly sold at tourist (usually seaside) resorts in the United Kingdom.

It usually takes the form of a cylindrical stick ("a stick of rock"), normally 1–2.5 cm (0.39–0.98 in) in diameter and 20–25 cm (7.9–9.8 in) long. These cylinders usually have a pattern embedded throughout the length, which is often the name of the resort where the rock is sold, so that the name can be read on both ends of the stick (reversed at one end) and remains legible even after pieces are bitten off. Wikipedia

There is also a canal and beach and boats and beach huts and surf shops and all the usual stuff you find at the seaside. Except the canal, you don't normally find a canal at the seaside.

This is the Bude Canal below. The Bude Canal was a canal built to serve the hilly hinterland in the Devon and Cornwall border territory in the United Kingdom, chiefly to bring lime-bearing sand for agricultural fertiliser. The Bude Canal system was one of the most unusual in Britain.

It was remarkable in using inclined planes to haul tub boats on wheels to the upper levels. There were only two conventional locks, in the short broad canal section near the sea at Bude itself. It had a total extent of 35 miles (56 km), and it rose from sea level to an altitude of 433 feet (132 m). Wikipedia

This is the basin just above the first lock, on which there are some pleasure boats, on a canal that now goes nowhere. The first bridge that I am standing on to take the photo is impassable, the road deck only a few feet above the water level, and at the far end where it meets the beach and open sea, a huge storm has ripped off the outer gate making the canal unusable at present.

These are the famous Bude rocks below, definitely not peppermint flavoured. Alternating beds of sandstone and mudstone (aka shale) totalling 1.3 km in thickness, known as the Bude Formation, are superbly exposed for many kilometres along the cliffs and in the wave-cut platform, attracting geology students and professionals alike. About 300 million years old (Carboniferous Period of the Palaeozoic Era), these beds were deposited as soft sand and mud in a tropical ‘Lake Bude’, home to a globally unique fish, Cornuboniscus budensis, an exquisite fossilised specimen of which is displayed in Bude Castle museum.

The beds were then deformed into spectacular zigzag folds (‘chevron folds’) by collision of England and France, which uplifted the whole of Cornwall to form a mountain belt, in latest Palaeozoic time, before dinosaurs existed.

So as you can see France was pushing us about even before the French people got there and there were fish here that the French still want and which we still coat in batter before frying, but not the one in the museum.

These are some of the most amazing rock formations I have ever seen and quite frankly I am surprised they are not more famous to the general public. They are just as spectacular as The Giant's Causeway.

This first one is the Whale's Back.

Bude Formation exhumed anticline known as ‘Whales Back’ , immediately west of Bude breakwater, looking west. The near end, truncated by erosion (bombarded by shingle carried in storm waves), exposes alternating beds of sandstone and dark shale.

All rock information courtesy of Bude geologist Dr Roger Higgs

This is the open end of the canal below, with the outer gate still missing. The latest update in April states that the harbour master is hoping that the final preparations for restoring the outer gate will be complete by the end of June early July so that the gate can be made operational for the summer.

This is the closed inner gate below. The Bude canal was pretty unique in several ways. One was it's use of inclined planes and the other was it's use of tub boats which are as you can imagine a bit like tubs, only they had four wheels on them. As the boats were hauled in series to an incline plane the wheels dropped into trackways and the boats were hauled up the incline. On one incline the boats were hauled up by a counterweighted bucket which was quite a bucket as it held thirteen tons of water, enough to pull up the boat as the bucket dropped down a hole. At the bottom of the hole the water was released and the bucket went back up the hole to repeat the process.

As with most canals they became obsolete with the introduction of the rail network facilitating cheap and easy transport.

There is a still a plan in force to fully restore the canal to working order.

This is the inset curved hinge point of the outer lock gate.

Detail below of the lock gate awaiting restoration.

At first glance this looks like a flooded car park but actually these are pedal operated floating cars. The first time you see one coming up the canal towards you, it does give you a bit of a double take moment.

I can vouch for this sign below as you have to be quite vigilant wandering around the harbour area. Slippery rocks, rusty machinery, very uneven surfaces, ropes, chains, death defying walkways and stone quays you can fall off with very big drops and no handrails, and floating cars. It all makes for a very unusual day out, as Bude is pretty unique and special.

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Unknown member
Oct 02, 2022

I am not sure how I missed this one, but then again I am not sure about a lot of things now a days. Some absolutely fantastic captures, at least in my view. As always, well done!

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Oct 03, 2022
Replying to

You didn't miss it first time around on PB only my repost here. On the original PB you commented, "So much texture. Very cool finds and of course captures." so don't panic, you are consistent in your thoughts, it's just failing memory. 🤣🤣🤣

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